Free mobile maps for smart phones
Where am I? I'll ask my phone...
The most useful place for a map is in the pocket, but anyone who has tried to navigate using a web-based mapping application on a mobile phone will know that it is a lot easier to ask for directions, or just wander around at random.
Running client software on the phone makes a lot more sense, as the interface can be tuned to suit a mobile experience; but when desktop mapping is free then not a lot of people are prepared to pay for that same service on their mobile.
Map 24  won’t charge you for their mapping application, which runs on Windows Mobile and Series 60 Symbian devices, and provides the normal mapping functions along with the 3D-view which is so popular on GPS systems these days.
Points of interest are marked, and settings such as routes and addresses can be imported from the Map 24 on-line application. The application is slick and works well, but obviously generates a lot of data traffic which could be expensive.
There is an option to display the amount of data transferred, but an unlimited data tariff is a better option if available.
Almost simultaneous with the Map 24 launch comes Mobile Earth, exclusive to Vodafone Live! users and only covering Germany for the moment, Mobile Earth adds aerial photographs and should work on most Vodafone Live! handsets as it uses a Java client which can be downloaded through the Vodafone Live! portal.
Again, the normal capabilities of searching for addresses and route planning are supported, but this time the map can be replaced with a photograph in a similar way to that offered by Google Earth.
But if similarity to Google Earth is what’s required then MGMaps  provides an interface which can collect data from that source as well as others, including Microsoft Virtual Earth and Yahoo Maps.
No route planning is provided, and the interface isn’t as slick as the competition, but worldwide coverage is available and it will connect to your Bluetooth GPS hardware if you have it.
Mapping on mobile phones has become useful as well as being free, just watch the bandwidth as the money saved on software might well be spent several times over on connectivity.
Thanks to the several readers, Terry Pettitt was quickest, who pointed out an application we neglected to mention. It seems we missed Google’s own mobile phone mapping software , which offers worldwide satellite photography and route planning, but in our defence it comes pretty low on a Google search for “mobile map”.